Origin and History
The regiment was raised on December 28 1755 at Newcastle and Gateshead by Lord Charles Manners. It initially counted 10 companies (including 1 grenadier coy) ranked 58th until the disbandment of the 50th Foot and 51st Foot in North America in 1757. The regiment then became the “56th Regiment of Foot”.
During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:
- since 1756: Lord Charles Manners
- from 1762 to June 1765: Hon. William Keppel
Service during the War
In 1756, the regiment was initially stationed in Newcastle.
In April 1757, the regiment marched from Newcastle to Berwick and thence to Scotland. Before the end of April, 7 companies had reached Dundee. In May, 4 companies were detached to Fort Augustus. In September, the regiment was reduced to 9 companies (including 1 grenadier coy) for an establishment of 42 officers (including 1 surgeon and 2 mates) and 992 NCOs and men. Towards the end of the year, it was sent to Fort William.
In May 1758, 4 companies of the regiment were quartered in Aberdeen and the rest in Braemar, Cullen, Banff and Peterhead.
As of May 30 1759, the regiment was stationed in Scotland. Part of his troops were detached and sent to reinforce the British infantry serving against the French in Germany under Ferdinand of Brunswick. By November, the regiment was stationed at Glasgow, Greenpck and Paisley.
In June 1760, the regiment left Scotland, embarking at Ediburgh for Newcastle.
In the spring of 1761, the regiment marched from Newcastle under lieutenant-colonel John Doyne, reaching Northampton in June and taking quarters at Hilsea Barracks in Portsmouth where, on December 17, Hon. William Keppel became its new colonel.
In 1762, the regiment was still quartered at Hilsea. On March 6, the regiment (998 officers and other ranks) sailed from Portsmouth under lieutenant-colonel James Stewart as part of Lord Albemarle's force to join the invasion force assembling in the West Indies. On April 25, Albermarle's force arrived off Martinique. There the regiment joined the 1st brigade along with the 1st “Royal” (4 coys) and the III./60th “Royal American”. Its light infantry company and grenadier company were detached and converged into light infantry and grenadier battalions. It then took part in the siege of Havanna, arriving before the city on June 6 and landing on June 7. On July 30, a detachment of 145 men of the regiment formed part of the storming party who made itself master of Moro castle. On August 13, Havanna finally surrendered. During the siege, the regiment had lost 209 men. It then formed part of the garrison of the city. During the following months, the regiment suffered heavy losses from sickness, including lieutenant-colonel Stewart, replaced by Alexander Monypenny.
In July 1763, Cuba was retroceded to Spain in exchange for Florida. In September, the regiment sailed for Ireland where it assumed garrison duty at Limerick.
|Coat||brick red lined deep crimson and laced and edged white (the exact pattern of the regimental lace in 1755 is unknown, however, from 1764 it was white with a pink stripe) with 3 white buttonholes under the lapels (same lace as above)
|Waistcoat||brick red edged and laced white (same lace as above)|
|Gaiters||white with black buttons|
brown, grey or black during campaigns (black after 1759)
Troopers were armed with with a "Brown Bess" muskets, a bayonet and a sword. They also carried a dark brown haversack with a metal canteen on the left hip.
N.B.: in 1764, several changes were made in the clothing and equipment of certain regiments of infantry; and a communication, dated Dublin, October 9, made known to the regiment:
- ”His Majesty's pleasure, that the facings of the clothing of the Fifthy-Sixth Regiment of Foot, under the command of major-general Keppel, be changed to a purple colour; that the men have white breeches; that the accoutrements be white; and that the grenadier caps be plated instead of embroidered...”
More precisely the distinctive colour was called “Pompadour” purple, a dark purple.
Officers of the regiment wore the same uniforms as the private soldiers but with the following differences
- silver gorget around the neck
- an aiguilette on the right shoulder
- silver lace instead of normal lace
- a crimson sash
Officers wore the same headgear as the private soldiers under their command; however, officers of the grenadier company wore a more decorated mitre cap.
Officers generally carried a spontoon, however, in battle some carried muskets instead.
According to the Royal Clothing Warrant of 1751:
- The drummers of the regiment were clothed in deep crimson, lined, faced, and lapelled on the breast with red, and laced in such manner as the colonel shall think fit for distinction sake, the lace, however, was of the colours of that on the soldiers' coats.
- The front or fore part of the drums was painted deep crimson, with the king's cypher and crown, and the number “LVI” under it. The rims were red.
King's Colour: Union with its centre decorated with a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment number "LVI" in gold Roman numerals.
Regimental Colour: deep crimson; centre device consisting of a rose and thistle wreath around the regiment number "LVI" in gold Roman numerals. The Union in the upper left corner.
Burrows, John Wm.; The Essex Regiment 2nd Battalion (56th) (Pompadours), Southend-on-Sea: John H. Burrows & Sons, 1927
Cannon, Richard; Historical Record of the Fifty-Sixth, or the West Essex Regiment of Foot; London: Parker, Furnivall and Parker; 1844, p. 9-14
Fortescue, J. W., A History of the British Army Vol. II, MacMillan, London, 1899
George II, The Royal Clothing Warrant, 1751
Mills, T. F., Land Forces of Britain the Empire and Commonwealth (an excellent website which unfortunately seems to have disappeared from the web)
Wikipedia 56th (West Essex) Regiment of Foot
Ian Hook, Keeper of the Essex Regiment Museum for his assistance and for the documentation provided